Happy Monday morning, everyone. Here’s your weekly look at what’s ahead in reality TV, unscripted content, and documentary TV.
This week, that includes:
- the finale of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which will have its final four lip syncing for the win (VH1, Friday, June 23, at 8).
- Jane Lynch gathering celebrities for fun party games on Hollywood Game Night (NBC, June 22, Thursdays at 8), which starts off with cast members from HBO’s Veep playing against cast members from AMC’s The Walking Dead.
- the return of The Wall (NBC, June 22, Thursdays at 9), on which couples tell emotional stories and play giant Plinko.
- the return of Escape the Night (YouTube Red, June 22), the hybrid scripted/reality murder mystery series featuring YouTube stars
ABC brings back The Gong Show and boy bands
ABC is bringing back two old-school reality competitions: The Gong Show and a competition that reminds me so much of Making the Band that it might as well be (though: it’s technically not the same show).
The Gong Show (ABC, June 22, Thursdays at 10) has a fictional host played by a former A-list actor and celebrities judging acts that are often absurd or ridiculous. In other words, it’s like a smaller, more intimate America’s Got Talent, with the proportions of good to awful reversed. But, as the casting of Austin Powers illustrates, it’s all just for fun.
The difference between Making the Band and Boy Band is that it’s more like the singing competitions that followed, with the show focusing on auditions and viewers voting to create the five-member band. Top Model host Rita Ora will host here, with judges Nick Carter and Emma Bunton.
There’s no trailer online, on ABC’s site or YouTube, even though it debuts in three days (ABC, June 22, Thursdays at 8). Also, while ABC has had a lot of success with nostalgia, I’m not sure if boy bands are either 1) a thing any more or 2) old enough to inspire nostalgia.
The short version: I’m a little skeptical about both of these shows. But I’m curious to see both and see how they do.
Epic looks at nature and history
PBS has there big new multi-episode shows premiering this week:
- Big Pacific (PBS, June 21, Wednesdays at 8). One third of the earth is covered by this ocean, and for the series, camera crews go into the pacific to capture “the ocean’s rare and dazzling creatures in a way never before seen on television,” according to PBS.
- In Yellowstone, the temperature changes by 140 degrees every year, meaning animals have to cope with those changes, from a brutal winner to a brutal summer. Great Yellowstone Thaw (PBS, June 21, Wednesdays at 9) examines that shift and watches animals to see how they survive.
- The Story of China (PBS, June 20, Tuesdays at 10). The history of the oldest state on the planet is the subject of this series, which looks back 4,000 years and goes all the way up to today.
3 documentaries and 1 special
- The Phil Keoghan-produced documentary about his place of origin, Aerial New Zealand, debuted last night, and repeats this week (Smithsonian Channel, Tuesday at 11 a.m. and Wednesday at 10 p.m.). The network describes it as “an epic voyage over the remote island nation of New Zealand, the last habitable landmass to be discovered on the planet.”
- On a special two-night version of Diesel Brothers, subtitled “The Doubleheader” (Discovery, Monday, June 19, and Thursday, June 22, at 9), “Heavy D and Diesel Dave step up to the plate for Tigers’ first baseman, and car enthusiast, Miguel Cabrera to trick out his 2016 Chevy Silverado.”
- Two years of reporting at Fusion produced The Naked Truth: China Queer (Fusion, Sunday, June 25, at 9), which is narrated by Omar Sharif Jr. Fusion says it “examines what it’s like to be gay in China and the challenges LGBTQ activists face,” such as “clinics that try to convert gays with medically baseless therapy and a shocking recording of a man held against his will in a mental hospital for being gay.”
- It took four years to film Independent Lens’ documentary that airs tonight (PBS, Monday, June 19 at 10 p.m.): Real Boy “follows the journey of trans teen Bennett as he navigates adolescence, sobriety, and the physical and emotional ramifications of his changing gender identity” as his mom is “travelling a difficult road toward accepting that the daughter she raised as Rachael is now her son Bennett,” according to PBS.